In the backs, Mark Telea returns to the right wing while Zarn Sullivan gets his second start at fullback. Up front, lock Patrick Tuipulotu is back in the starting XV alongside Sam Darry with the in-form Cameron Suafoa eyeing less minutes from the bench.
Hoskins Sotutu and Stephen Perofeta have an All Blacks rest week while Akira Ioane, Bryce Heem and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck continue to progress well with their return from injury.
Hooker Soane Vikena appears on the bench for the first time this season, while exciting talent and potential Blues debutant, Caleb Tangitau, provides outside back cover.
Blues Assistant Coach, Craig McGrath, who was part of the Melbourne Rebels coaching group from 2015-2018 says the team are hungry for a complete performance across the Tasman.
“All the ingredients are there, it’s just about putting them together for 80 minutes,” said McGrath.
“Seeing the likes of Soane and Caleb come onto the bench this weekend really shows the depth of talent we have across the board. Soane’s been training the house down lately and deserves his crack while Caleb is young and full of energy - an exciting prospect with plenty of pace!”
“I really enjoyed my time in Melbourne, it’s a great city and a place that really embraces their sports teams. The Rebels are playing some decent footy, especially at home, so we’ll need to turn up on Saturday night with purpose and direction.”
The Melbourne Rebels have won three of their last four Super Rugby matches at AAMI Park, while the Blues will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats in the competition for the first time since April 2021.
Blues Captain Dalton Papalii says nothing but a win will be acceptable against the Rebels.
“That’s the standards we set, that’s the standards we expect of ourselves, we’re going to Melbourne to get the points,” said Papalii.
“I can’t fault the boys for turning up and putting in the effort each week. If you look around, guys are doing those little extras at training and looking to improve their game. That’s the sign of a team who are committed and willing to work hard for each other.”
The Blues travel to Melbourne this afternoon ahead of Saturday’s match, kicking off at 9:45pm (NZT).
1 Jordan Lay
2 Ricky Riccitelli
3 Nepo Laulala
4 Patrick Tuipulotu
5 Sam Darry
6 Adrian Choat
7 Dalton Papalii (c)
8 Anton Segner
9 Finlay Christie
10 Beauden Barrett
11 Caleb Clarke
12 Harry Plummer
13 Rieko Ioane
14 Mark Telea
15 Zarn Sullivan
Reserves: Soane Vikena, Ofa Tuungafasi, James Lay, Cameron Suafoa, Tom Robinson
Sam Nock, Corey Evans, Caleb Tangitau
Players not considered:
Bryce Heem (groin), Alex Hodgman (shoulder, season), Akira Ioane (knee), Stephen Perofeta (rest), Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (knee), Hoskins Sotutu (rest), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (hand)
Rebels v Blues
Saturday, April 8 | 9:45pm (NZT)
AAMI PARK, Melbourne
Coverage: SKY SPORT & Gold Sport + iHeart Radio